Identify health care quality with the SDoH screening tool

Sept. 27, 2023

One of the most important ways that identifying social determinants of health (SDoH) can improve health care is by improving access to care. Individuals who live in poverty, have low education levels, or are living in rural areas are often more likely to have limited access to health care. This can lead to worse health outcomes, as people who lack access to care are less likely to get treatment for chronic conditions. 

The consensus among physicians serving low-income communities that patients’ social needs are as important as their medical conditions signifies a pivotal shift toward a more holistic approach to health care. 

Addressing SDoH alongside medical conditions can lead to better health outcomes, reduced health disparities, and increased patient trust engagement. To achieve this vision of comprehensive care, collaboration between health care providers, policy makers, and community organizations is vital in creating positive change for patients in low-income communities. 

Defining the SDoH screening tool 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other organizations have developed several resources to help health care providers address SDoH. One of the main resources is the SDoH screening tool. 

The SDoH screening tool is a brief questionnaire that assists health care providers in identifying patients who may be experiencing social or economic challenges that could impact their health. The tool asks questions about patient’s housing, food security, transportation, access to health care and other factors, according to CMS. An example of the SDoH screening tool can be viewed here. 

The SDoH screening tool has been effective in identifying patients who are at risk for poor health outcomes. A 2020 study of the tool used in primary care settings found that it identified 30 percent of patients were experiencing social or economic challenges. 

These patients were more likely to have chronic health conditions and less likely to have access to health care. The tool, when used in a community health center, found that patients who were screened for SDoH were more likely to receive preventative care and treatment for chronic health conditions, which resulted in a decrease in hospitalizations. 

Read the complete article on JustCoding. 

Joscelyn Thomas is a clinical development analyst for 3M Health Information Systems.